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Common Causes of Brain Fog: How to Deal with Brain and Mental Fatigue
As the body ages, one's memory can slowly start to fade and momentary lapses of confused thinking can become more common. This is a natural process but in some cases brain fog and fatigue can be accelerated by certain situations or conditions. Understanding the common causes of brain fatigue is essential for maintaining good health practices that will keep the brain clear-thinking and healthy for as long as possible.
What Is Brain Fog?
Brain fog, also commonly known as brain fatigue, can be a mild to severe episode of mental confusion that can strike without warning. When this occurs, it is common to experience a lack of focus, poor memory recall and reduced mental acuity.
If the underlying causes of the brain fog are not addressed, then the condition can continue to occur to the point that it can negatively affect one's professional and personal life.
Common Causes of Brain Fog
Brain fog and fatigue can be caused by a range of factors. In all cases, getting to the heart of what causes the brain fog is the key to overcoming this debilitating condition. Common causes of brain fatigue include:
Lack of Sleep
– The brain needs sleep in order to recuperate. So, when sleep is regularly interrupted or when one suffers from a sleep disorder, they are more likely to experience brain fog in the morning upon waking. For some, a simple cup of coffee is enough to clear away the fog, but for those who suffer from serious sleep deprivation, the fog can stay for quite some time.
– Certain neurological disorders have brain fog as side effects of the condition. These include fibromyalgia, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis.
– Stress is very powerful and it can negatively affect the body in a number of ways, including causing brain fatigue. While this is common during times of severe stress, such as when a loved one passes, normal everyday stress should not cause it. If one starts experiencing brain fog from normal everyday stress, this may be an underlying sign of another problem.
– When women go through menopause, they sometimes experience brain fog due to fluctuating hormones. As the hormones become regulated, the symptoms of brain fog tend to disappear.
– Since glucose is the primary source of energy for the brain, fluctuating glucose levels in the blood can cause some short-term brain fatigue symptoms. For this reason, those with diabetes are at high risk for brain fog.
– Strong brain function relies on proper levels of magnesium, vitamin B12, and amino acids in the body. When these nutrients are deficient or the body is dehydrated, brain fog can occur.
Side Effects of Medications
Certain medications, such as those for high blood pressure, pain management and allergy relief, can cause mental confusion as a side effect. This can occur with any type of medication, both prescribed and over-the-counter.
Brain Fatigue Preventive Measures
Brain fatigue is often a controllable condition, if one is able to determine the underlying cause of it. Some activities that may help reduce the episodes of brain fatigue include:
– Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep has been shown to provide the best rejuvenating benefits. Try to increase the quality of your sleep to help reduce brain fatigue during the day.
Quit Smoking and/or Alcohol
– Smoking and alcohol dramatically increase the number of free radicals being produced in the body, and this can play a role in mental confusion and poor brain health. Limiting intake of both will allow your body's antioxidants to start the healing process immediately.
Eat a Healthier Diet
– A diet with plenty of fresh whole foods rich in Omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids, magnesium and complex B vitamins will help reduce the episodes of brain fatigue.
– Stress can literally be a killer, so practicing ways to reduce stress in your daily life can be quite helpful. Whether through exercise, meditation or another calming practice, reducing stress will help alleviate brain fog and help you to live a healthier life.
You’re having a conversation, and suddenly you can't remember the right word -- or the wrong words come tumbling out of your mouth. You're cooking dinner, the timer's going off, but you can't remember why you set it.
When brain fog clouds your thinking, you may feel frustrated or embarrassed. You may also wonder what it means for your MS. But don’t worry. It happens. With your doctor’s help and some new techniques, you can learn ways to work around it.
4 Brain Fog Basics
Brain fog is a catchall term for all sorts of brain changes that can come with MS. Here are four things to know.
It's common. About half the people with MS have these issues at some point, says Rosalind Kalb, PhD, a clinical psychologist and vice president of clinical care at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. For most, the cloudy thinking is mild and manageable. Only 5% to 10% of people with MS have issues with their thinking that seriously affect their day-to-day life or career.
It can affect your short-term memory, attention, and concentration. It can muck up your ability to retain new information and plan.But it doesn't usually affect your intelligence, reading comprehension, or long-term memory.
It may get worse over time, but it may not. Once you have episodes of brain fog, they usually don't go away completely. They are more likely to progress slowly.
It can have many causes. Sometimes the fog is triggered by actual changes in the brain caused by MS. But it can also be brought on by other issues -- like depression, fatigue, and side effects from medication.
Tips for Managing Brain Fog
Pinpoint the cause. Talk to your doctor. You could have an underlying and treatable condition -- like depression -- that's to blame for your fuzzy thinking. Taking medications for bladder problems and having trouble sleeping can also leave you foggy, says Cindy Richman, senior director of patient and health care relations at the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.
Get organized. If your memory is unreliable, stop relying on it. "You really have to replace your memory with organization," Kalb says. Get in the habit of writing everything down.
Have a family calendar. Hang it in the kitchen or another central place where you and the rest of your family will see it many times a day. "Everyone in the family from age 6 or 7 and up should be responsible for adding to it," Kalb says.
Use tech. Your smartphone can be an ally. Try out MS-specific apps as well as alarms to keep you on track. You can set reminders to go off right where you need them -- like the supermarket or drugstore.
Cut down on distractions. Brain fog can make it harder to filter out background noise and other things that can take your attention. So if you need to concentrate on a task or conversation, turn off the TV or go to a quiet space.
Article Citation:John N. Ratchford, Regina Brock-Simmons, Amanda Augsburger, Sonya U. Steele, Kristie Mohn, Mandi Rhone, Jinyan Bo, and Kathleen Costello (2014) Multiple Sclerosis Symptom Recrudescence Is Common at the End of the Natalizumab Dosing Cycle. International Journal of MS Care In-Press.
Article Multiple Sclerosis Symptom Recrudescence Is Common at the End of the Natalizumab Dosing Cycle John N. Ratchford , MD; Regina Brock-Simmons , BS; Amanda Augsburger , RN;Sonya U. Steele , MS; Kristie Mohn , RN; Mandi Rhone , RN; Jinyan Bo ; KathleenCostello , MS, ANP-BC
From the Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Objective: To study how frequently patients receiving natalizumab for multiple sclerosis (MS) experience recrudescence of their MS symptoms at the end of the dosing cycle.
Methods: One hundred consecutive MS patients receiving natalizumab completed a survey evaluating changes in symptoms during the natalizumab dosing cycle. Ninety-one patients also completed questionnaires at two time points: the first week after natalizumab infusion and the last week of the dosing cycle, including the MS Quality of Life–54 (MSQOL-54), Fatigue Visual Analog Scale (VAS), Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), and Beck Depression Inventory–II (BDI-II).
Results: End of dosing interval (EDI) symptoms were reported as currently being experienced by 56% of respondents. An additional 10% reported that they previously experienced that phenomenon, but not currently, and 34% reported never experiencing this. In those with EDI symptoms, they began to occur a median of 21 days after infusion and improved again a median of 1 day after infusion. The most common symptoms reported were fatigue, weakness, walking impairment, and cognitive difficulties. No specific demographic or disease characteristics were associated with this phenomenon. In the subgroup with EDI symptoms, the MSQOL-54, Fatigue VAS, FSS, and BDI scores were all significantly worse in the last week of the dosing cycle when compared to the first week. No difference was seen in these scores between first and last week in the subgroup not experiencing symptom recrudescence.
Conclusions: Recrudescence of fatigue, weakness, walking impairment, or cognitive difficulties at the end of the dosing cycle occurs in about two-thirds of MS patients receiving natalizumab.
Published Online: April 9, 2014
Correspondence: John N. Ratchford, MD, Pathology 627, 600 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21287-6985; e-mail: email@example.com.
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Sleep problems, or disorders, are conditions that prevent a person from getting restful sleep and as a result, cause daytime sleepiness. There are about 80 different types of sleep disorders and about 70 million Americans suffer from them. The inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep, called insomnia, is the most common sleep disorder.
Many people with multiple sclerosis complain of insomnia or broken sleep patterns, yet sleep problems may not directly be the result of the disease itself. Many sleep problems occur because of secondary factors such as stress, spasticity, inactivity, or depression that people with MS often have. Other symptoms of sleep problems may be caused by the location of MS lesions within the brain.
People with MS often have trouble staying asleep because of spasticity, especially in the legs, or an increased need to go to the bathroom at night because of bladder problems. Talk to your doctor about what is keeping you up at night; there may be medications he or she can prescribe to improve the problem.
How Nerve Pain Feels
People with nerve pain feel it in different ways. For some, it's a stabbing pain in the middle of the night. For others, symptoms can include a chronic prickling, tingling, or burning they feel all day.
Uncontrolled nerve pain can be hard to bear. But with treatment, it can often be adequately controlled.
most people think of multiple sclerosis, they think of a disease that causes
symptoms of weakness and motor problems -- not pain.
10 or 20 years ago, there was a saying that MS causes all kinds of trouble but
doesn't cause pain, which really isn't true," says Francois Bethoux, MD,
director of rehabilitation services at the Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis
Treatment and Research at The Cleveland Clinic.
a national survey of more than 7,000 MS patients, 70% of them had experienced
some kind of pain, and at least 50% were experiencing some kind of pain at the
time of the survey," Bethoux says.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society reports that almost half of all people with
MS are troubled by chronic pain.
differs from the kind of pain you might get with a headache, a joint injury, or
muscle strain. "It's often more diffuse, affecting several areas of the
body at a time. It often changes over time, getting worse or better for no
apparent reason. It tends to fluctuate a lot," says Bethoux. "People
often find it hard to describe: It's sometimes described as like a toothache,
other times like a burning pain, and sometimes as a very intense sensation of
pressure. It's very distressing for patients because they have a hard time
explaining what their pain experience is."
what's causing this baffling, complex, often debilitating pain? Bethoux
describes it as "an illusion created by the nervous system."
Normally, he explains, the nervous system sends pain signals as a warning
phenomenon when something harmful happens to the body. "It's a natural
defense mechanism telling us to avoid what's causing the pain," he says.
"But in MS, the nerves are too active and they send pain signals with no
good reason -- they're firing a pain message when they shouldn't be."
Some of the most common types
of pain experienced by multiple sclerosis patients include:
Acute MS pain. These come on suddenly and
may go away suddenly. They are often intense but can be brief in duration. The
description of these acute pain syndromes are sometimes referred to as burning,
tingling, shooting, or stabbing.
neuralgia or "tic doloureux." A stabbing pain in the face that can be
brought on by almost any facial movement, such as chewing, yawning, sneezing,
or washing your face. People with MS typically confuse it with dental pain.
Most people can get sudden attacks of pain that can be triggered by touch,
chewing, or even brushing the teeth.
Lhermitte's sign. A brief, stabbing,
electric-shock-like sensation that runs from the back of the head down the
spine, brought on by bending the neck forward.
aching, or "girdling" around the body. This is called dysesthesia by
are also some types of pain related to MS that are described as being chronic
in nature -- lasting for more than a month -- including pain from spasticity
that can lead to muscle cramps, tight and aching joints, and back or
musculoskeletal pain. These chronic pain syndromes can often be relieved by
anti-inflammatory drugs, massage, and physical therapy.
Drugs Offer Relief
Drugs Offer Relief
most part, however, acute MS pain can't be effectively treated with aspirin,
ibuprofen, or other common OTC pain reliever medications or treatments.
"Since most MS pain originates in the central nervous system, it makes it
a lot more difficult to control than joint or muscle pain," says Kathleen
Hawker, MD, an assistant professor of neurology in the multiple sclerosis
program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas
what's the alternative? In many cases, the treatment of choice is one of a
range of anticonvulsant medications, such as Neurontin and Tegretol. "The
main thing that links them all up is that we're not quite sure how they work --
either for seizures or for pain," says Hawker. Since the FDA hasn't
officially approved these anticonvulsants for the treatment of pain, they're
all being used "off-label," but Neurontin, for example, is prescribed
five times more often for pain than for seizures, says Hawker.
the vast majority of patients, these medications do work," says George
Kraft, who directs the Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation, Research, and
Training Center and the Western Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of
Washington in Seattle. "There's a problem, though, in that most of them
can make people sleepy, groggy, or fatigued, and MS patients have a lot of
good news: Most pain in MS can be treated. There are more than half a dozen of
these anticonvulsants, and they all have a slightly different mechanism of
action and different side effects. The side effects of these drugs can also
include low blood pressure, possible seizures, and dry mouth. They can also
cause some weight gain.
Drugs Offer Relief continued...
drugs are so similar to each other that if one drug in the class fails, another
is unlikely to work," says Hawker. "That's not the case with these.
Which one you use for which patient depends on the side effect profile."
the right anticonvulsant is all about trial and error, says Bethoux.
"We'll start them at the lowest possible dose of one medication and
increase it until the person feels comfortable or until side effects aren't
tolerable. If one medication doesn't work, we'll try another," he says.
"It's a process that can take a long time, but it's the only way we have
to do this."
Frontiers in Treatment
patients, however, still haven't found the right drug and the right dosage to
control their pain. "About 1% to 2% of patients have extremely refractory
pain that's very hard to manage," says Kraft. So MS experts are still
looking for options to add to their treatment arsenal.
intriguing possibility: Botox. The anti-wrinkle injections popular with Park
Avenue socialites have shown promise in helping to control some types of MS
pain. Botox, which acts locally to temporarily paralyze a nerve or muscle, has
been used for years at some multiple sclerosis clinics, including Hawker's, to
manage spasticity and bladder problems. "Serendipitously, we found that it
also seemed to have an effect on pain," she says. "It's far from
being a known treatment for pain in MS at this point, but it's an exciting
along with two other centers, will soon be launching a small study involving
about 40 patients with MS to assess whether Botox can indeed relieve the
stabbing pain of trigeminal neuralgia. "There are no systemic side effects,
only mild local facial weakness. The biggest drawback is that you can only
inject it in a limited area, so even if we do find that it's effective against
MS pain, Botox will certainly not replace any of the medications we currently
have. But it may be used in very specific conditions like trigeminal
neuralgia," Hawker says.
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In this image, the top row shows the stem cells transplanted into the mouse spinal cord. The lower row shows a close-up of the stem cells (brown). By day 7 post-transplant, the stem cells are no longer detectable. Within this short period of time, the stem cells have sent chemical signals to the mouse’s own cells, enabling them to repair the nerve damage caused by MS. (image: Lu Chen)
or patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), current treatment options only address early-stage symptoms of the debilitating disease. Now, new research has found a potential treatment that could both stop disease progression and repair existing damage.
In a study published in Stem Cell Reports, researchers utilized a group of paralyzed mice genetically engineered to have an MS-like condition. Initially, the researchers set out to study the mechanisms of stem cell rejection in the mice. However, two weeks after injecting the mice with human neural stem cells, the researchers made the unexpected discovery that the mice had regained their ability to walk.
“This had a lot of luck to do with it; right place, right time” co-senior author Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, told FoxNews.com. “[co-senior author Tom Lane] called me up and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this.’ He sent me a video, and it showed the mice running around the cages. I said, ‘Are you sure these are the same mice?’”
Loring, whose lab specializes in turning human stem cells into neural precursor cells, or pluripotent cells, collaborated with Tom Lane, a professor of pathology at the University of Utah whose focus is on neuroinflammatory diseases of the central nervous system. The team was interested in stem cell rejection in MS models in order to understand the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms contributing to rejection of potential stem cell therapies for the disease.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. For people with MS, the immune system misguidedly attacks the body’s myelin, the insulating coating on nerve fibers.
“In a nutshell, it’s the rubber sheath that protects the electrical wire; the axon that extends from the nerve’s cell body is insulated by myelin,” Lane, who began the study while at the University of California, Irvine, told FoxNews.com
Once the myelin has been lost, nerve fibers are unable to transmit electric signals efficiently, leading to symptoms such as vision and motor skill problems, fatigue, slurred speech, memory difficulties and depression.
The researchers’ inadvertent treatment appeared to work in two ways. First, there was a decrease of inflammation within the central nervous system of the mice, preventing the disease from progressing. Secondly, the injected cells released proteins that signaled cells to regenerate myelin and repair existing damage.
While the stem cells were rejected in the mice after 10 days, researchers were able to see improvements for up to six months after initial implantation.
“One of the big hurdles in stem cell transplant therapies is rejection. What our data would argue, [is immunosuppression] may be a moot point because it doesn’t matter if [stem cells] are rejected, because they are, but we still see clinical improvement,” Lane said.
Now the team is working on figuring out how to use the stem cell-secreted proteins, or something that mimics the proteins, for clinical use— instead of transplanting stem cells directly, which would be more difficult both in creation and practical application. Additionally, drugs they create could get FDA approval more easily, compared to stem cell therapy, Loring said.
“Rather than delivering stem cells for MS, we want to deliver things stems cells make that are good for mice and presumably humans,” Loring said.
CONTINUE reading this stem cell therapy update ……..
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I can't tell you how
much I appreciate the docs' frankness and to- the -point answers to questions.
It takes a degree of courage and boldness to address MS issues straight on. So
many times (and of course guided by sponsors) we get pat answers that get frustrating,
and to be honest, boring.
Dr. Steingo is refreshing and a great addition
to your already amazing work.
MSers do their homework and are knowledgable about their disease.
We appreciate the respect given to us by the presenters.
Again, much appreciation. Thank you.
Dear Cheryl - Thank you. We greatly appreciate comments such as this, which is why we then ask to print them - Regards, The MS Views and News Team
In addition to listening to the above Informational interview, you can watch a personal trainer (Jeff Segal) who speaks/demonstrates, at many of our meetings by clicking this link which will bring you to the MS Views and News YouTube channel. When the Video opens, use the scroll bar to Fast Forward to the time of 1:09:14 - to watch and hear Jeff's presentation
Neither "Stu's Views and MS News" / "MS Views and News" is saying that fitness will cure MS. We do though, encourage all to do some form of fitness as keeping 'fit" can be beneficial to you and those around you. Additionally, Please Consult with your physician before beginning any exercise routine that you are not currently doing.
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Low-fat diet good for multiple sclerosis patients (Thinkstock Photos/ Getty Images)
Following a plant-based low fat diet may help people who suffer from fatigue associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), research says.
"This study showed the low-fat diet might offer some promising help with the fatigue that often comes with MS," said Dennis Bourdette, chair of department of neurology, Oregon Health & Science University.
MS is an inflammatory disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged, disrupting the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in physical, mental and sometimes psychiatric problems.
The study investigated the effects of following a diet called the McDougall Diet, devised by John McDougall.
The diet is partly based on an MS-fighting diet developed in the 1940s and 1950s by the late Roy Swank, a former head of the division of neurology at OHSU.
The McDougall diet, very low in saturated fat, focuses on eating starches, fruits and vegetables and does not include meat, fish or dairy products.
The study, which began in 2008, looked at the diet's effect on the most common form of MS, called relapsing-remitting MS.